A worker for a city's police department was typing a report when his supervisor walked into the booking room and said in front of a group of employees that he was feeling suicidal and was ready to take others with him. The supervisor said that the worker would be the first on the list. The worker claimed that as a result of the incident he suffered from adjustment disorder, depression, anxiety, acute distress disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The worker visited a number of doctors who made references to his "job-related stress," "depression and issues on the job," and "long-standing conflicts at work."
The supervisor was moved to another job in a different building, but he continued to return to the worker's office. The worker feared that the supervisor might follow through on his threat.
He sought workers' compensation benefits. The city disputed the claim, noting that the worker and the supervisor had long-standing personal and professional conflicts that resulted in previous verbal altercations. Also, the worker continued to work with the supervisor after the incident for nine months.
The workers' compensation judge found that the worker showed that the death threat was a "sudden, unexpected, ad extraordinary stress" related to his employment. However, he did not show that any mental injury or illness he experienced was a result of the event.
WCJ correct in denying benefits to the worker?
No. The worker failed to show that the death threat was a "sudden, unexpected, and extraordinary stress" related to his employment.
The evidence did not show that the worker's mental problems were the result of the single event at work.
No. The worker's mental injury was caused by the death threat.
How the court ruled: B.
The Louisiana Court of Appeal held that the worker was not entitled to benefits because he did not show that his mental injury was caused by his supervisor's death threat. Franklin v.
Slidell Police Department, No. 2012 CA 0539 (La. Ct. App. 12/31/12).
The court explained that it appeared equally likely that the worker's mental problems preexisted the event and were merely exacerbated by it.
A is incorrect.
The court said that it was highly unusual for a supervisor to threaten to kill a worker. An unprovoked death threat from a supervisor could never be anticipated by an employee.
C is incorrect.
The court said that it was not highly probable that his mental injury was the result of the single event. The worker and supervisor had long-standing conflicts, and the supervisor continued to harass the worker for months after the event.
This feature is not intended as instructional material or to replace legal advice.
April 29, 2013
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